Relatively low cost of setting up a mine and huge potential profits drew thousands from a Guangxi county to chase their fortunes – and danger – in Africa
Raymond Xie quit his job as an English teacher at a university in Guangxi early last year to join the gold rush in the west African country of Ghana.
The 41-year-old and his partners spent about 3 million yuan (HK$3.76 million) establishing a small mine in Obuasi, in the Ashanti region, and set about making a fortune.
Three million yuan is not enough to buy a three-bedroom flat in Beijing but it was enough to set Xie on the road to riches overseas as one of an estimated 50,000 Chinese gold miners in Ghana, most of them, like Xie, from Shanglin county.
After working at a gold mine for a year, many of these Chinese workers go back to Shanglin and recruit their own teams,” he said. “They borrow money from banks and apply for a three-month travel visa. Then they return to Ghana and set up a new mining operation.”
But life was tough in Ghana, he said.
“We have to battle deadly malaria, yellow fever and HIV here,” Xie said. “We threw up all the time when we first arrived here.
“We miss everything and everyone in China. We would be willing to pay about 100 yuan for a bowl of Chinese rice noodles and we even launched a protest here in September to echo the nationwide anti-Japanese sentiment on the mainland.
“We are frequently threatened and robbed by local gangs, and also need to bribe local officials and policemen in return for necessary cover. The Chinese embassy in Ghana only has 10 Chinese employees and is little help when we are robbed and even killed.
“To protect ourselves, we buy shotguns to deter the robbers. But I have never shot anybody, even though my site has been robbed twice.
“To relax, some go to casinos and many of us go to hunt wild animals in the forest.
“Ghana is so lonely and dangerous for Chinese but also full of opportunities and hope for people like us, who are young, ambitious but have no connections,” Xie said.
Despite their mixed results and the mixed reactions from African people, Xie said he and his countrymen had left their footprints all over Ghana and would not stop their adventures in the African continent.
Su Zhenyu , secretary general of the Chinese Mining Association in Ghana, said they felt there was a lack of backup and support from the Chinese government.
“Five or six villagers can collect hundreds of thousands of yuan to invest overseas,” he said. “That’s hard to imagine before the rise of China. And now similar stories are happening often in Africa and in South America. But what we are experiencing in Ghana shows our government has a poor budget and little concern for helping individual businesspeople like us.”
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